Posts Tagged ‘broadcast journalism’

Interview: Senior News Producer’s Story Pitching Tips

Monday, January 8th, 2018

TV news stations are focusing more on social media than on-air newscasts. So what’s your story’s social media component?

Denver Senior News Producer Greg Deffenbaugh, right, worked with The Flip Side Communications President Keith Yaskin, left, when Keith was an investigative reporter at the Fox Television station in Phoenix.

When Greg Deffenbaugh first entered the field of broadcast journalism a decade ago, television stations followed the traditional format of reporting the news of the day to viewers.

Today, the focus is on digital, with viewers’ opinions and concerns playing a major role, says the KDVR-TV senior news producer in Denver.

“It’s definitely changed in the past 10 years since I’ve gotten into the business,” Deffenbaugh says.

The typical newscast used to consist of two anchors who would sit at a desk and talk to a reporter. Now there’s more of an emphasis on how to tell the story differently, through a touch screen, using social media examples on a huge monitor or telling the story through a video.

“I was told once by a news director that they want to see it, say it, show it.”

One new trend with some stations, is allowing viewers to comment on stories as stations report them, with their comments scrolling on the screen during the newscast. Deffenbaugh says that owners of media companies feel that getting viewers involved in the newscast provides a way to increase interaction between the anchors and their audience.

One reason for this effort is that traditional newscasts don’t exist anymore, he said. If there’s breaking news, the station often goes live on Facebook rather than devote the whole newscast to that news. For instance, when there’s a big storm, the station will dedicate one newsroom member to cover the storm and that person will stay on Facebook for hours, flipping between live shots and talking to reporters. “There’s more of a focus on social media and our digital products than over the air.”

One reason for this is that social media allows a news team to report on a story nonstop without any commercial breaks. “It’s not just us telling information, it’s us having a conversation,” Deffenbaugh says. In the early days of social media, two or three staffers would post news stories online, but now the station has five team members dedicated to online coverage, and everyone in the newsroom, including producers, contribute to social media.

“There’s a whole strategy – not only posting stories, but engagement and telling stories differently, and being involved with the community. That plays a big part in knowing who your audience is.”

Win weather, win the day

Deffenbaugh credits weather as “a major key to our success.” The Denver station has six meteorologists on its staff, four of them are certified. In severe weather markets, viewers count on the station to report what their morning commute will be like, what to wear that day and how to keep their family safe when dangerous storms approach, he says. Research shows that viewers for local television stations tune in for weather reports, so Deffenbaugh explores new ways to tell the story differently than competing stations in the market. He works with his managers and team of meteorologists to give viewers the latest information and how it will impact them in the coming hours, all while focusing on making sure they keep a digital perspective in mind.

‘Not the same business’
The challenging part of the broadcast news industry is that it is always changing. Reporters in many markets are pitching stories, shooting those stories and also editing them. We call them multimedia journalists. “They can do everything, and they are a real asset to the newsroom,” Deffenbaugh says.

From a producing perspective, it can be challenging when utilizing multimedia journalists during breaking news. “They need to be able to go live, and most of the time they don’t have a photographer with them, so getting them the tools they need is always in the back of my head.”

This emphasis on social media and the changed definition of news has led many of his former co-workers from his first television markets to leave broadcast journalism, Deffenbaugh says. “It’s not the same business we went into.” When “you have a multimedia journalist background, you can use your skills to go into so many things.” Many have gone into public relations or started their own consulting firm or video production companies.

Part of this reason is also the grueling schedule, which often includes 10-hour days and being on call “basically all the time” even though there is an on-call schedule.

“I feel a lot of people don’t know what they are signing up for when they decide to go into broadcast television and many do move on because of the commitment does take. But at the same time, if you’re passionate about it like I am –  I live and breathe this stuff – you’re going to excel because there are so many people who say it’s not for me.”

-Leisah Woldoff


Broadcast journalism

Should You Shoot Business Videos With Smartphones?

Monday, July 1st, 2013

It is a difficult task envisioning us hiring a man we regularly see and hear soliciting business. He may be committed to his craft, but as a walking billboard for his business, he continuously makes a mistake:  He often doesn’t tuck in his shirt, an approach we believe most people in his field would disagree with. That consistent image blocks any consideration by us of using or recommending his services. In other words, his image prevents us from wanting to learn more about whatever content he offers.

By comparison, consider the business owner craving to save money and paying someone just a few hundred bucks to build a website. The site can’t handle certain browsers and looks horrible on mobile devices. This influences potential customers and reduces the chances of them checking out his or her content.

These are the scenarios we return to when bloggers suggest businesses simply grab a smartphone and shoot video because content, as opposed to appearance and perception, matters most.

When Keith studied broadcast journalism at Northwestern University, he focused on both his reporting and shooting video skills. An underlying reason his stories stood out was that the stories looked good. His classmates may have reported on equally interesting issues, but the message sometimes got lost because viewers couldn’t get past video that looked as if someone’s mom shot it at a birthday party.

So if a website, an office or the way employees dress are a representation of your business, why wouldn’t the quality of video have a similar impact? Sure, it’s hard to care about quality if your video happens to catch a normally docile sheep angrily protecting her young by chasing off a hungry wolf. But this is not often an option or relevant for businesses. Video can be an effective selling device, but it can also waste everyone’s time if it looks like it got final approval from a high school production class. Yes, content is important, but people won’t automatically watch or open a door to new business if you look like an amateur. If looks don’t matter, try untucking your shirt for a week.

Crisis Communications: Don’t Run So Far Way

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Part 3 in a blog series

Part 1

Part 2

When I worked on investigative stories which raised questions about the actions of businesses, individuals or government agencies, we typically interviewed several people, shot plenty of video and gathered documents. Sometimes the subject of the investigation only emailed a statement in response.

I often had two compelling sides of a story with one side providing me with most of the elements I needed to put together a special report. When appropriate, I tried to find ways to include more information on behalf of the side that was not fully participating. But, especially in broadcast journalism, you can only accomplish so much when one side emails a few sentences and the other is all too willing to grant passionate sound bites, compelling video and important documents.

Many times, I didn’t understand why the focus of the investigation provided only a statement. Did someone have something to hide? Did someone not believe we would deliver fair reporting? Did someone believe the best way to handle such circumstances is to allow them to “blow over”?

Some of the subjects put on the hot seat had what appeared to be the proper people on staff to handle tough questions. They had their own persuasive counter-arguments that could neutralize the accusations against them. But too often, people, companies and agencies took what I assume they consider the safe path and provided a statement that might as well have been uttered by a robot still undergoing beta testing. And when we aired the story, the sound and visuals seemed slanted toward the side delivering all the goods.

If you really want to get a fair story during a case of crisis communications, then open your doors and grant an interview with a spokesperson who I assume gets paid for more than typing out spin. Don’t argue passionately about your position to a reporter on the phone and then only be willing to provide a statement that took someone two days to conjure up. Invite the reporter or TV crew over instead of claiming such a visit will disrupt everyone’s day.

In the end, your preference may remain the story never hit air or made its way to print. But if that’s not one of our options, then you’ll almost always look better when you stand up for yourself instead of hiding behind an email. Even if a company committed an error, the public generally is willing to forgive when someone stands up in front of them and takes responsibility. But only releasing a statement with a logo keeps you sitting in the shadows while someone else shouts out their grievances from a mountaintop.

Don’t be part of the flock. Don’t run so far away.

Journalists Should Follow Their Dreams. And I Mean It!

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Journalists Should Follow Their Dreams. And I Mean It!


A fellow reporter introduced us to “his” intern from Arizona State University. The intern walked into a cesspool of cynical people sitting in their seats. As if fathers warning their sons, several people surrounding me warned the intern to re-direct his career path away from broadcast journalism.

When the reporter introduced the intern to me, I told him to “follow his dreams.” The group exploded in laughter. I unintentionally tried to inspire the college student with words said in a deadpan fashion. I portrayed myself as a beaten man giving one last thumbs up before my head disappeared into quicksand. Until the day I left the TV station, co-workers randomly told me to “follow my dreams.”

I genuinely meant, “follow your dreams.” I know firsthand broadcast journalism isn’t always glowing in the glory of Walter Cronkite. Instead of regularly saying thank you for your contributions, some stations simply hope you appreciate being employed. Instead of handing you a company credit card for out-of-town stories, some stations will want you to pay up front and ask you, if you forgot to obtain an itemized receipt, to call the restaurant and request someone to fax the necessary documentation related to your meal. (The restaurant may hesitate to help you because the station required you to give the nice waitress a tip you consider to be low.) While some stations are happy to try to meet your vacation requests, others will ask you to calculate every day off a year in advance. While some stations will congratulate you on a new job and notify the public of your part in the company’s success, other stations will view anyone who leaves as a cousin of Benedict Arnold. While some stations will watch your time with James Bond technology, other stations will define your efforts by quality not quantity. And some stations simply pay better.

Young journalists shouldn’t walk into any job as if they landed on a new planet of shiny, happy, perfect people. But young journalists also should follow their dreams and never let a disgruntled news veteran discourage them. Most of my college classmates in broadcast journalism never tried for their first job after hearing the salary and the small city they might initially live in. I, on the other hand, rented an apartment in North Carolina, drove about an hour each way to work and smiled like a young fool filled with passion.

Follow your dreams. I mean it. And if a station inexplicably takes months to reimburse your out-of-town expenses after you light up the airwaves with a series of awesome live shots, don’t worry. You’ll eventually get your money … I think.